Seller Guide for Artists: How To Be Successful on Society6

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Society6 is a type of online store known as a print-on-demand store.  What this means is that artists and photographers can upload their images to Society6, and sell products with their designs.  Print-on-demand stores typically sell prints, home decor products, and other gifts.  These stores allow designers to sell products with their images without having to worry about maintaining inventory, handling orders, and shipping, while still being able to make money off of their designs.

This article will discuss Society6 and give information about the store for sellers (as opposed to customers).  The topics covered are products offered, uploading interface, the dashboard, royalty rates, membership fees, promotional tools and more.


Introduction

First, a little bit about me.  I am a traditional artist who specializes in colorful animal artworks that are created with acrylic paints, pastels, and colored pencils.  I have had my Society6 store since 2015.  Society6 was founded in 2009. They are based in Santa Monica, California, United States.  They are a brand operating under the American content company Leaf Group (formerly Demand Media).  This corporation operates popular brands such as LiveStrong.com, eHow, and Saatchi Art in addition to Society6.

Patience is Key!

It is very possible to make money selling on print-on-demand stores like Society6.  But one thing to keep in mind is that it takes a lot of patience, time, and dedication to make your store profitable.  It takes a while to generate sales.  It can take months to get your first sale.  Unless you have a very popular and well-established brand, it can take a few years for your store to get traction and really start generating sales regularly. Having a POD store is certainly not a get rich quick scheme.

It is also important to keep in mind you are making a royalty on sales.  This means you get a percentage of each sale.  If you sell a throw pillow for $30, with a 10% royalty, your earning is $3.00.  You would have to sell a lot of throw pillows everyday to make a living wage! While it is theoretically possible to earn a decent income off of royalty sales alone, for most artists this is not the reality.  For the majority of sellers, the sales will generate a passive supplemental income.  If you are making $100 or more a month in royalties, you are doing pretty good!


Find Your Niche

Decide what it is you want to sell as an artist.  Some people do great graphic design and can create beautiful abstract designs which look great on home decor products like throw pillows and shower curtains.   Others, like me, create their art first, then decide which products to sell on later.  Find your niche and stick to it.  Create your own style and brand and be consistent.  I don’t recommend following trends, as these usually fade out leaving you with a store full of products that will not sell in a few months or years.

In order to be successful, you must have a large and diverse portfolio.  The more designs you have, the better.  It is a good idea to constantly be adding new artwork and designs on a regular basis.  It is also a good idea to annually evaluate your older designs, and remove the ones that are not selling at all.  But don’t do this too often, since you never know what will sell!  I have had designs that never sold for years all of a sudden start to sell.


Setting Up Your Store

The header from my Society6 store

Setting up your store on Society6 is easy and free!  Choose your username wisely, as it will be a part of your store URL and cannot be changed later.  You can only have one store per account, so if you want multiple stores, you must sign up with a different email address.

Make sure to fill out your bio completely.  Don’t forget to add a profile picture and banner.  Having your profile filled out will make your store look more professional.

Edit Your Shop

At the top of the screen on your home page is the button that says Edit Your Shop.  This allows you to edit some basic shop settings and appearances of your shop. On the “Shop Settings” tab you can set what people see on your home page.  Your “Sort By” can be set to Popular, New or Random.  The “Department” and “Products” will determine what people see when they visit your store.  I recommend setting this to Wall Art and Art Prints, as this is the default product type.  However, you can set this to anything you like.  Under the “Appearance” tab, you can set your cover image, avatar, and bio.


Adding Products To Your Store

As of the time of writing, their product line has 62 products.  This includes wall art, home decor, furniture, pillows and bedding, bathroom decor, tabletop (kitchen and dining), stickers, stationery, phone cases, clothing, bags, and yoga mats.

The interface to upload products is very clean and compact.  You only have to upload a single image, and then you can add it to all the products simultaneously. However, some products will need their own individual files.  Products like metal art prints have very specific requirements.  Other products like t-shirts and die cut stickers require a cutout design with transparency to look best. They accept JPG for most products, and PNG for t-shirts.  The file size limit is 75 MB.

On Society6, since their product offering is more limited, it is not necessary to pick and choose which products you put your designs on.  You can enable or disable each product individually.  I would recommend enabling as many products as your design looks good on.  In my case, I don’t think the colorful dog paintings look good on leggings, so I disable that product for those designs.

Each product can be individually edited to better fit the product.  You can make the image larger or smaller, move it on the product, and even upload a separate file for individual products.  If you need to change the original file, this is easy to do in the Mange section. Make sure your design completely covers the design area of the product.  Otherwise, there will be ugly gaps around the image and it will not look good. Society6 will notify you if the dimensions are not big enough for a particular product, and give you the dimensions for that product.   For example, for the wall hanging, the image must be at least 4058 pixels wide.  For most products, they recommend dimensions of at least 6500 x 6500 pixels.

Royalty Rates

The royalty rate is set at 10% for all products except art prints, canvas prints, and framed art prints.  These three products can have the royalty markup set individually for each size of print.  You can set these to whatever you want.

Collections

I recommend setting up a few Collections to curate your work.  This is an easy way for customers to see similar designs grouped together in your store.  If you have hundreds of designs, this is the best way to keep track of them. I highly recommend adding the Art Print version of your product in each collection, as this is considered the “base” product in your store.  Collections must contain at least 3 items to be visible to the public.


Adding A Title, Description and Keywords

Adding A New Design (click for larger view)

You will need to add a title, description, keywords to each design. Adding a good title, description and keywords is the most important thing you can do to have your design seen.  The title and keywords are indexed by Society6’s search, and the description is indexed by Google search.  Having a good title, description and keywords will allow your product to be seen on the site and on Google search.  Without these, your product might as well be invisible.

Title

The title should include four to eight words describing your design, with a maximum of 100 characters.  Be descriptive.  The title is searchable, and key words here are important.  Don’t just call it Image 1, or Abstract Design.  Be specific.  If it is a painting of a rainbow colored Siamese cat, then call the product “Colorful Rainbow Siamese Cat”.

Keywords (Tags)

You get 20 keywords on Society6, so use them all!  You can use individual words, such as “Siamese”, and you can use phrases, such as “pet portrait”.  Make sure to think about the main subject of the design.  For my Siamese cat, I used the following keywords: Siamese, cat, cats, feline, pets, colorful, rainbow, psychedelic, vibrant, kitty.  This included the subject (cat, Siamese), description (colorful, psychedelic, rainbow), and related terms (cats, pets, kitty). You also need to select a category, such as Drawing, Painting, Photography, etc. When you do this, it will suggest some more tags you can use.

Description

The description is not searchable on Society6, but it is indexed by search engines such as Google.  Having a couple of sentences describing the design in detail, along with your name, can really get your design ahead in the search results.  Tell a story about the design, your inspiration, how it was created, use descriptive words about the design itself.  You get 250 characters for your description.


Managing Your Store

Manage Posts

Managing your store is fairly easy.  You can edit any product directly from the product screen, or go to your Manage My Posts section to see them all at once.  You can see your sales on your Earnings page. Unfortunately, there is no way to see your statistics for a particular product or design.  You cannot see how many times a product or design has been viewed or sold, or added to someone’s collection.  You can only see how many times it has been “promoted” (more on that later). And you can see comments.  In that case, I highly recommend you keep track of your sales yourself in an Excel spreadsheet, and make note of which designs are selling and which are not.

Affiliate/Referral Program

There is an affiliate program, they call it an Art Curator.   You can receive 10% additional on sales.  It is provided by Society6 as an id you tack on the end of any Society6 URL when you share it. You can sign up for this on the Referrals page of your account.  I highly recommend this, as it can net you additional income for your products and others you share online.


Getting Your Art Noticed

You can follow other artists and add their products to your wish list and favorites (called collections). You can also “promote” a piece, an action which is similar to liking something in Facebook. The best way to get your art noticed in the Society6 marketplace is to get as many promotions and comments as possible.  When an image is being actively commented on (within that day or two), it will show up higher in the search results.  Images that have not been commented on in a while will rank lower in the search results.  Getting comments and promotions is key to maintaining your status in the search results.  Getting lots of followers doesn’t hurt, either.

What really gets your art into the marketplace is getting a sale.  Getting that first sale for a design can be very difficult, but once it happens, it will rank higher in the search and will hopefully continue to sell.

There are a lot of things you can do to promote your artwork and products.Adding your products to your social media accounts is one of the most important things you can do to promote your products.  Set up social media accounts, such as a Facebook artist page, Twitter, and Pinterest, and make posts about your products regularly.

If you have a Pinterest account, make a board for each product type and sections for each individual product.  Pin everything, and pin often. Join groups and pin there, too. Make sure you include your Curator ID in each link you pin, that way you can get some referral income.  Pinterest is the best way to get traffic to your products, since most people go there to buy things.

Post on Twitter everyday, multiple times per day, if possible. Join Facebook groups specific for Society6 or other POD stores and post there, too.  Make blog articles for your products on your own website.  Make sure you have links to your online stores on your website in a prominent area, such as the menu.


Keep Track of Your Sales

Keep track of your sales on a regular basis.  You need to do this to measure how successful you are, and to keep records for tax purposes.  I have an Excel spreadsheet where I copy and paste the sales into each month.  I have one sheet for each year, and divide each sheet into months, and add up the total sales for each month.  Then I can see how I am doing compared to last year. This is especially important for Society6 since they do not give you any sales statistics for your designs.


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